Monday, January 20, 2014

Interview, Giveaway, and Tour: Here's To You, Zeb Pike by Johanna Parkhurst

Johanna will be awarding one ebook to one randomly drawn commenter and one print book (US only - international winners will receive an eBook substitution) to a second randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

Title: Here's To You, Zeb Pike by Johanna Parkhurst
Genre: YA Contemporary GLBT
Release Date: November 07, 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
Length: 180 pages

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

Fact: When Zebulon Pike attempted to climb what is now known as Pikes Peak, he got stuck in waist-deep snow and had to turn back.

That's the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn't long before social services figures out that Dusty's parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they've never met.

Dusty's new life is a struggle. His brother and sister don't seem to need him anymore, and he can't stand his aunt and uncle. At school, one hockey player develops a personal vendetta against him, while Emmitt, another hockey player, is making it hard for Dusty to keep pretending he's straight. Problem is, he's pretty sure Emmitt’s not gay. Then, just when Dusty thinks things can't get any worse, his mother reappears, looking for a second chance to be a part of his life.

Somehow Zebulon Pike still got the mountain named after him, so Dusty's determined to persevere—but at what point in life do you keep climbing, and when do you give up and turn back?

Purchase Links: Barnes & Noble, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon
Excerpt 1: 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only high school freshman on the planet who actually likes school.

Well, I guess I don’t really like school itself. I don’t really enjoy writing papers or listening to lectures or dealing with quadratic formulas or any of that stuff. It would probably be more accurate to say that I like resting.

School is one of the few places where I get a chance to relax, sit back, and not think too hard. My buddy Race hates when I talk like that—he says it’s egotistical of me to brag that I can ignore about 80 percent of what our teachers say and still get the grades I do—but I’m not trying to brag. That’s just how school is for me.

Take the class I'm currently chilling out in: history with Ms. Carlson. This is a class that probably makes other freshmen want to slit their throats. I mean, I know all students think their teachers drone on and on, but Ms. Carlson brings it to the level of an art form. She must have been absent from teacher school on the day “class discussion” was introduced as a method of instruction.

Me? I love this class. Most of the time I completely zone out for forty minutes and just recap whatever I missed with a little textbook-skimming during study hall.

Today I’ve managed to lean back in my chair as far as it will go, and I’ve got my feet propped up on my backpack. I’m half-listening to Ms. Carlson; she’s going on about the Pike Expedition. After all, this is Colorado Springs, home of Pikes Peak, the semifamous and epically huge mountain that is currently looming right outside our classroom window.

“Zebulon Pike and his team did attempt to ascend the peak, but they were forced to turn back, essentially due to weather conditions and a lack of appropriate gear. There were no REIs in the area then, you see.”

The class titters, which is more of an effort to keep Ms. Carlson smiling than a nod to how great the joke is. Ms. Carlson is one of those teachers who enjoys thinking she’s hilarious. We’re a bunch of students who enjoy inflated grades.

“Wait, Ms. Carlson, I don’t get it. Do you mean he didn’t get to the top?”

Author Interview (with the book character answering some questions too): 

What inspired you to write Here's to You, Zeb Pike?

I’ve been answering this question on a lot of blogs lately, so I thought I’d try something different and let Dusty, the main character in Here’s to You, Zeb Pike explain more about where he came from. Dusty?

Dusty: Geez, do I have to explain this? Emmitt’s picking me up for a movie in a few minutes. Okay, let’s make this quick. See, Johanna teaches middle school, and she’s taught a few kids who had to act like adults when they were really young—you know, because their parents weren’t that great or whatever. So that’s where she came up with my parents, who pretty much suck at everything, except maybe partying. I think she decided to tell my story because I am AWESOME and did such a great job of taking care of my brother and sister without my parents and I didn’t need any help or anything—uh, Johanna’s shaking her head at me. Okay, maybe there are a few things I needed help with. You’ll have to read the book, though, if you wanna know what they are. I have a movie to get to.

It’s not like she decided that I was going to be gay, though. I mean, I just am gay. And don’t give me that crap about how this is a choice I made, or she made, or whatever. I’ve always known I was like this, pretty much for forever. I’m really glad I turned out this way, because otherwise I wouldn’t have met Emmitt, you know? Not that it was that easy for us or anything. It still isn’t. But that’s all in the book.

How did the character Dusty came to be?

Dusty wants to take this one, too.

Dusty: Why do adults always like to ask teenagers what makes them who they are? I don’t get it. I mean, do you guys ask other adults weird questions like that all the time too?

I think if I am the way I am for the same reasons everybody is: a little bit DNA, and a little bit what I’ve had to go through in life. I’ve recently learned that I come from some tough DNA, and some DNA that’s pretty weak, so I’m a little of both. I’ve been through some tough stuff, and some great stuff. But that’s all in the book, too. Hey, Emmitt’s here, so I gotta go. Check out the book if you wanna know more about me and Emmitt and why we are the way we are and all that.

This sounds like an intense and deep book. What do you want the readers to walk away with after reading the book?

Dusty went to the movies with Emmitt, so I guess I have to take this one.

This book is very much about what it means to succeed and fail in life, and how people should handle success and failures. If I say too much else I’ll give away a major story line within the book so…yeah. Success and failures, and the fine line between the two. I hope readers walk away with a lot of thoughts about what it really means to be successful at something.

Why did you start writing M/M romance?

I’ve been writing young adult books for a really long time, but I actually never set out to write a romance novel or an M/M romance. I just happened to write a book about a teenager who was gay, and he happens to meet another guy he really likes during the course of the book. I’ve written more books with LGBT characters since this one (I have another called coming out in March) because I am a very firm believer that school libraries and bookstores should have lots of LGBT characters in them. Every kid should have access to literature with characters they can relate to. Every kids should read about characters who will help them appreciate the many different types of people that exist in this little world of ours.

Do you have any booksigning/publishing horror stories?

Ha! That’s a really funny question. I’m a TOTAL introvert, and I’m absolutely horrible at putting myself “out there,” so the whole first month after this book released was basically horrifying for me. Twitter scares the bejeezus out of me, even today. My first FB chat was a nightmare—I had no idea what to say. At first I was horrified when people weren’t showing up, and then I was more horrified when they did!

The great thing, though, has been how amazingly supportive and kind my readers have been. I want to hug every single person who’s left a review on GoodReads, or emailed me a kind word, or followed me on Twitter, or even just took a chance and read this book. It’s so gratifying to know this book speaks to other people the way it speaks to me. I’ve made so many new friends because of this book. Thanks, everyone!

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?

I actually just accomplished a few major items this year! My husband and I visited New Orleans, Iceland, Paris, and London. Many checkmarks there. Next bucket list item is to learn Spanish.

And to finish up, please tell us 10 things you wish you knew about writing beforehand. 

Oooh…tough. Here we go.


10. Ignoring people when they talk to you because you are composing a story in your head is NOT considered socially acceptable.

9. Use your day job as inspiration, not as an excuse to avoid writing.

8. If you can, figure out how to use Twitter before you get published. That way you don’t feel like a total idiot when people start telling you to hashtag things and you don’t know what that is.

7. Don’t follow all the super clever people on Twitter right away, though, because it can lead to a feeling of woeful inadequacy.

6. A Spotify account is an absolute must.

5. Network with other authors as much as you can. You can learn so much from the people who did this first. And they can make you feel better when you get your first bad review, ‘cause they’ve already been through it.

4. Don’t read that first bad review unless you’re REALLY ready to hear and receive the criticism. And even then, it might not be a great idea.

3. Invest in a computer with a really good keyboard. (Duh.)

2. Be okay with whatever your writing process is, as long as it works for you. Some people have to write every day. Some people live NaNoWriMo. Don’t believe people who tell you that your process is wrong—unless it really isn’t working for you. Then you should probably listen to yourself and try something else.

1. Persevere through people telling you that your stuff is horrible. It’s probably going to happen a lot. Just keep writing, and keep getting better at writing. Eventually you’ll find that one person who really likes your stuff—and that, believe it or not, will change everything. :)

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.

Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband. You can contact her at or find her on Twitter at


Johanna will be awarding one ebook to one randomly drawn commenter and one print book (US only - international winners will receive an eBook substitution) to a second randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

You should follow the tour and comment. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning! The tour dates and stops can be found here:


  1. Thanks so much for a great interview!

  2. I have this on TBR list. Would love to win a copy!

    jen.f {at} mac {dot} com

  3. A wonderful interview, Johanna, and, of course, everyone needs to own "Here's to You, Zeb Pike." Now.

  4. Great interview, Johanna, to go along with a great book, though you kind of give the whole Emmitt thing away despite teasing it in the blurb. Ha!

  5. Wonderful interview. Sneaky that Dusty sneaked away before answering all the questions though! I also loved the Top 10. I think I need to bookmark this post!